Audible Medical Alarms – Adapting Brain, Music and Sound Research to Clinical Medicine
Abstract: Sound exposure in the hospital can have deleterious effects on patients and practitioners. Clinicians perform worse on tasks involving patient monitoring in noisy and highly attentionally demanding environments. Research on the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of alarms can decrease the overall sound exposure by decreasing the alarm fraction contribution of total sound.
Alarms in the ICU sound frequently and 85-99% of cases do not require clinical intervention. As the type and number of alarms increase, clinicians develop ‘alarm fatigue’ resulting in desensitization, missed alarms, and delayed responses. This is dangerous for the patient when an alarm-provoking event requires clinical intervention but is inadvertently missed.
The healthcare provider is bombarded with multiple auditory stimuli, and must triage these stimuli and provide appropriate clinical intervention. Currently, international standards (IEC 60601-1-8) have yielded alarms that are uninformative and difficult to learn. Scholarship in the field of music perception and cognition can inform the development of salient multisensory stimuli to improve patient monitoring, patient safety, and attenuate alarm fatigue
Dr. Joe Schlesinger is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology Division of Critical Care Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine where he attends in the operating room, neuro ICU, burn ICU, and VA surgical ICU.
His research interests includes human factors engineering, aural perception, temporal precision, alarm development, and patient monitoring. He actively fosters collaboration across the medical center and university in these pursuits, holding adjunct faculty appointments in Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, and the division of Biomedical Engineering within the School of Engineering.